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MTV host runs into a workday hazard

April 04, 2005|by JASON STEIN/ Wheelbase Communications

It's not your normal kind of workday hazard. In fact, most people might find it a little hard to relate.

But trust the man named Xzibit, the ultra-cool, ultra-hip, host of MTV's hit show "Pimp My Ride," when he says he has a legitimate workplace problem.

About once every five seconds, he says, someone approaches him with a simple request.

"No matter where I am, someone is saying, 'Xzibit: Pimp my ride. Xzibit: Pimp my ride,'" he says during a phone interview from his TV studio in Los Angeles, Calif. "Everyone who walks up to me thinks I'm Mr. Goodwrench or something. Like, all of a sudden I'm supposed to know everything about cars."

Ah, the troubles of stardom.

It will turn a regular guy into a household name. It will turn a tough kid from the streets of Detroit, Mich., into a poster child for the aftermarket auto business.

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What an adventure it has all been.

Away from the camera, Xzibit is Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, a man who grew up without a mother (she died when he was 9) and who began writing rap-music lyrics as a teen in hopes of making a better life for himself.

On camera, he is Xzibit, host of "Pimp My Ride," a weekly reality show that features the work of West Coast Customs, an aftermarket "tuner" shop that takes the vehicles of young automotive owners in Los Angeles and turns them into hot rides.

The show has been going strong for more than a year and has recently become so popular that MTV has taken it global. Xzibit is now in Italy, Germany, England and all over North America.

"I just thought we'd have a little show on MTV," he says. "Now it's all over the place. It couldn't be better. It has beat all of our expectations."

The show's plot is fairly simple: Xzibit approaches a typical viewer, highlights all of the problem areas of the owner's broken-down car and then drops his famous line: "We're going to pimp your ride," he declares.

Then the show heads to West Coast Customs where a team of professionals takes the vehicle apart and then builds it back up again, complete with video monitors, custom wheels, paint, upgraded interiors and all of the latest innovations in car audio and video.

Presto: rust buckets are brought back to life. And all in 30 minutes of TV time.

The show is open to 18- to 24-year-old owners who live in Southern California, but the show is constantly receiving requests from owners all over the world.

What does Xzibit think of the phenomena?

"I can't believe it," he says. "It's all about giving people a dream. It's not just about the cars. It's the boost that these kids get in their self-esteem. You can see it in their faces."

Xzibit talking about boosting self-esteem?

It's all too ironic.

After bouncing around most of his teen life from Michigan to New Mexico, Xzibit worked his way into the music scene by making the most out of his affiliations with rappers Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Within five years he had a hit album, then another and another.

Last year, when MTV called and asked if he would like to be a part of an automotive show, Xzibit agreed, but admitted he wasn't exactly handy around a garage.

"I couldn't tell you the difference between a carburetor and an oil pan," he says, "but I'm getting better. I'm actually learning something about cars."

Now he has a Hummer H2 and a Mercedes-Benz S500 luxury sedan, both of which were worked over at West Coast Customs.

"Why do I need more than two cars?" he says. "You can only drive one at a time."

Xzibit now makes his mark on the automotive industry, edging his way into stardom one vehicle at a time.

In late 2003, Cadillac even called to ask if he would like to be included in a select group of 35 "tastemakers" who were evaluating and critiquing the next-generation (2007) Escalade sport-utility vehicle.

Xzibit was given a 30-minute sneak peek of a clay model during a private showing at a Los Angeles sound stage. Rumor has it that professional athletes were there along with rap stars, actors, directors and other celebrities.

"Tastemaker," he says. "I'm all about being a tastemaker."

As for the future of his TV show, Xzibit says the sky is the limit. For now, he'll keep fielding requests for car-crazy customizations.

"It's crazy, man," he says. "Just crazy."

Jason Stein is a feature writer with Wheelbase Communications. He can be reached on the Web at :

www.wheelbase.ws/mailbag.html.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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